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Comprehensive Guide to Impression Share Metrics

Impression share is one of my favorite metrics because it gives me an idea of how many people I can reach with my clients’ ads. Unlike TV ads, which have been a staple of trust and prestige across the marketing and advertising industry, digital ads have proven to be more measurable, reliable, and transparent when understanding if your goals are being met. Because of digital’s viability, TV ad spend has constantly declined for the past ten years. Impression share metrics give us one more reason to trust digital over expensive TV spots.

An impression is when your ad is visible to a user. The user may or may not see the ad because we sometimes overlook things in plain sight, but the advertisement is visible on the web page app of a digital device for all intents and purposes.

For the advertiser, an impression is counted against an advertiser’s account once that ad loads and appears on the user’s screen. But what is an “impression share,” and why is this metric so important to those looking to leave the world of television advertising behind?

Your impression share is the percentage of impressions your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions your ads could potentially get. If web users searched your keywords 1,000 times a week, that number (1,000) is your eligible impression count. If your ad were served on half of those impressions, your ad’s impression share would be 50%.

To the two largest paid search platforms. Google and Bing Ads allow advertisers to see the percentage of ad impressions served up on screens for keywords, ads, ad groups, and campaigns, as well as the total number of ad impressions they were eligible to serve.

The critical term here is the “eligible” amount of impressions. The amount of eligible impressions is essential because it gives us an idea of how to improve or “optimize” our campaigns. Most of the other metrics provide an idea of how your current, ongoing campaigns perform rather than potential opportunities.

Therefore impression share metrics are more meaningful the longer your campaigns have been active and the more information you have about the keywords you’re targeting. It’s one of the final steps in the optimization process.

This is extremely important for advertisers to reach as many people as possible or replace television ads. Gone of the days of spending money without knowing what impact you’re having on the market. You know exactly where you stand within your specific online market with impression share.

Impression Share Lost due to Rank and Impression Share due to Budget

Google gives us two more important metrics centered around impression share, impression share lost due to rank and impression share due to budget. When you add up your search impression share, your impression share lost due to rank, and impression share due to budget, you’ll get 100% every time.

Search Lost IS due to budget is ONLY available at the campaign level since the budget only applies to the campaign, not ads, ad groups, and keywords. It’s important to note that there’s a search impression share and a display impression share. We’ll primarily discuss search impressions here since, for the most part, the principles apply across the board.

Together, these metrics demonstrate a symbiotic relationship between our impressions and the impressions we could have received due to rank and budget. How are these metrics actionable?

If your Search Lost IS due to rank is high, you’ll have to improve your ad rank. We’ve gone over ways to improve your ad rank, including the correlation between your ads, keywords, and landing page, using ad extensions and improving your landing page.

If your Search Lost IS due to Budget is high, increasing your daily budget is an easy fix. However, sometimes, it is not so straightforward. When looking at Search Lost IS due to budget, you’re looking at impressions lost because your campaign does not have enough budget to handle the potential impressions daily. Not having enough budget could be a symptom of underlying issues such as improper bidding, poor campaign structure, poor ad rank, or, more than likely, a combination of these issues.

Within your campaign, you have the option to bid on keywords at the ad group level and the keyword level.

Let’s say you have a highly competitive keyword and need a max CPC of $10 to appear on the first page. If you have a daily budget of just $50 a day and 15 other keywords within the same campaign and ad group, that one keyword could be eating up your entire daily budget with just five clicks and leaving the other keywords without any budget to work with.

Your Search Lost IS due to budget will naturally be deceptively high for this campaign since Google lets you know you need additional budget to account for the impressions you’ve missed with the 15 other keywords. This is a problem with both poor campaign structure and improper bidding.

One solution for this problem could be to place that keyword within a separate campaign and ad group and increase its ad rank, thereby paying less than your competitors but still ranking high in the SERP. Another solution would be to leave the keyword but set its bid at a lower max CPC, thereby leaving enough budget for the other keywords.

You may not receive as many clicks for the expensive keyword, but hopefully, with work on your ad rank, you can still manage to squeeze in an adequate amount of impressions and clicks. Yet another solution could involve increasing the bids of the other keywords.

Ultimately, you’ll have to increase your budget somewhere to accommodate such an expensive keyword. Goals and objectives are crucial to the fluid optimization process. Your north star or goal lets you know if that expensive keyword is worth it.

If your goal is to drive a high number of conversions at a low cost, you’ll have to look at the particular keyword’s conversions and cost per conversion.

If your goal is to achieve a high impression share, you may look into other relevant but less expensive and higher volume keywords to accomplish this goal.

Four Ways to Improve Your Impression Share

To summarize, there are basic ways to improve your impression share.

  • Increase your campaign budget: Using the impression share lost due to budget metrics and formula, you can figure out how much you’ll need to increase your campaign budgets. This is the most direct way to increase impression share.

Additional Impression Share Metrics:

Search absolute top impression share & Search top impression share metrics

Google refers to top and absolute top metrics as prominence metrics, that is, metrics that estimate your ad’s visibility on the search results page.

Search top and absolute top IS metrics represent impressions you’ve received at the SERPs’ top or absolute top location, above organic search results divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive at those locations.

These metrics are an upgrade to Google Ad’s old average position metric. The average position metric didn’t take into account organic search results and used an average instead of a percentage. Percentages give us an idea of how often we accomplish our goals while averages find the middle ground between a data set, and worst, you have no idea what influence outliers have on that number. This metric is good if you are concerned with appearing at the top of the SERP.

Search top IS metrics

  • Search top impression share

Search absolute top IS metrics

  • Search absolute top IS

Final Couple of Impression Share Metrics

  • Exact Match Impression Share is the percentage of time your keywords and search queries match up exactly. This metric is only essential if you use phrases and broad match keywords and know what percentage of searches match your keywords exactly. You can deduce that broad match keywords will have a higher search exact match IS while your exact match keywords should be around the 90%+ mark.
  • Click Share is the estimated share of all achievable clicks you have received and is available only for Search, Shopping, and Hotel campaigns. Click share correlates with impression share from the perspective of actionable information. In other words, if you have a low click share, you would handle it the same way you would handle a low impression share, except that the impression share metric is more valuable.

Useful Impression Share Formulas

  • Impression share = impressions / total eligible impressions

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